Podcast Review: The Optimistic Reckoning of Closer Than They Appear

Having frank conversations about the state of our country has never been more important. But it can be difficult to reckon one’s place in a community full of otherwise good people who have aligned themselves with a hateful ideology. In the podcast Closer Than They Appear, host Carvell Wallace confronts this dilemma by showcasing the voices of those who stand to lose the most in this country: immigrants and/or people of color. Through a compact 7-episode season, the show gauges our nation’s progress from the viewpoint of people yearning to connect with others who seem distant. Intimate interviews that start with convivial small talk quickly become discussions of deep-rooted insecurities.  

Closer Than They Appear ingratiates its listeners with a unique lineup of guests including acclaimed actor Mahershala Ali and the lesser-known former congressional candidate Alexis Frank. In his conversations with these guests, Wallace transitions seamlessly from asking about his guest’s career paths to probing their emotional lives. Since these conversations can be quite personal, Wallace creates a sense of trust by talking about his own journey to reconnect with his adopted mother. Listeners could very well carry on as voyeurs, taking in the heartbreak without feeling an urge to examine how the stories might be applied to relationships closer to home. But hearing the same voice gradually reveal the pieces of an intimate struggle creates space for more self-reflective listening. Wallace’s children are occasionally featured to compelling effect on this front, conjuring up the notion that he is exploring the subject through his own life as much as the life and work of his guests.

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